Ultra Easy Vegan (or not) Spicy Mongolian Beef with Broccoli

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I usually find faux meats to be pretty useless.  The texture is never convincing & the flavor is typically kinda yucky.  You need a lot of other things going on in the way of sauces & spices to fool even those, like myself, who are very eager to be fooled.  I’m no ball-buster on this front.  I accept Diet Coke as a substitute for Coke (though I seldom drink either of those toxins – preferring to poison myself with the sugar & other bad elements of a bottle of wine).  I accept veggie dogs & veggie burgers as the phony version of their animal-based counterparts – even though I know no meat eater would ever be tricked.  But the faux chicken patties & fake buffalo wings & fake bacons are entirely unacceptable (excepting the chemical-burn-producing BACOS – which I love – and will eat out of the jar – embracing the stalactites of flesh that dangle from the roof of my mouth afterward as a small price to pay for the sensation of eating bacon).  Until recently (because of this report HERE on Fukishima & the west coast of the US) – I preferred to use various seafood items in place of meat but now even that has been taken from me.  And, frankly, this blog is like a insatiable zombie.  Like this zombie protest –

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this blog makes similar monomaniacal demands of me – but it demands new recipes instead of brains.  Not a vegan & not a meat eater – I am, I guess, a new vegetarian after 20-25 years of identifying as pescatarian.  Anyway, it gets hard to come up with new things to make all the time when so much of the average person’s diet is off my menu.  When I add in calorie considerations (a gal cannot live on mac & cheese and pizza forever without repercussions) and then other foods I am trying to avoid – like corn and soy – which Monsanto is starting to scare me off of – and then add budget considerations – I sometimes find myself in a culinary no-man’s land.  So – in a moment of desperation, I bought these Trader Joe’s Beef-less Strips.

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I know.  They contain soy.  But fuck it.  I had little hope that these would be any more satisfying than other items of this ilk, anyway, and so they sat in my fridge for weeks.  Finally, last night, I decided to mix them up with some broccoli & make an Asian-inspired beef dish.  I broke down (out of laziness) and picked up a container of steamed rice from a local Thai joynt – even though I try to avoid white rice as much as possible, too.  (Are you beginning to understand the too-much-information foodie-world I have gotten myself into?)

The resulting dish might be one of the tastiest & easiest recipes I have ever posted!

I steamed the broccoli separately.  I recommend this highly as a way to avoid overcooking it & to keep it from turning an unsightly dark brown color from the sauce.  You can use any kind of rice you like – or put this over noodles of some kind – but try it!

This is a REALLY easy dish to make.  It made my house smell like a Chinese restaurant (in the best way) & this fake beef shit was so shockingly good – it was all I could do not to eat the entire recipe in one sitting.  The leftovers were even better today & I wasted no time devouring them.  If you eat actual meat – feel free to use that.  I think you will be blown away by how Goddamn tasty this fucker is.

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Ultra Easy Vegan (or not) Spicy Mongolian Beef with Broccoli

serves 2

INGREDIENTS

Steamed rice of your choice

Broccoli (quantity is up to you but I used one very large head) – cut into florets

1 (8 oz) package of Trader Joe’s Beef-less Strips (or other brand – or a similar quantity of real steak strips)

Olive oil

Cornstarch

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or sriracha or other chili paste) – optional

1 TBS minced ginger (I used jarred)

4 garlic cloves – minced

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup brown sugar

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DIRECTIONS

Make the rice & set aside.  Steam the broccoli in about 1/4 inch of boiling water – in a covered pot – for about 2 minutes.  Drain & return to dry pot, cover to keep warm & set aside.

Toss the fake (or real) meat in just enough cornstarch to cover it.

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Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the crushed red pepper & the meat.  Fry the meat until the outside begins to brown or get a bit crusty.  Maybe 3-5 minutes.  If using real meat – cook it to your desired doneness.  Put the meat (real or otherwise) on a plate & set aside.

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Lower the heat on the pan to med-low.  Add the garlic & ginger & let saute about a minute & then add the water, soy & sugar.  Increase heat to a boil.

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The sauce should thicken pretty quickly.  Add the cooked meat.  Toss with the broccoli or serve the broccoli as a side.  Add some rice to the situation & eat the two servings on your own.  Get drunk & start shit-talking on Facebook about what a badass, cooking muthafuckah you are.

It happens.  Don’t judge yourself.

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Easy Stove-Top (or not) Smoked Mozzarella Macaroni & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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This is a REALLY easy recipe for mac & cheese & it doesn’t even require baking!  I baked it because I wanted a crusty topping of toasted panko but you can skip this & go directly to the “shoveling it into your pie hole” part of the deal, if you desire.  It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients or any skill at all.  It is nearly as easy to make as a box of Kraft – so – no excuses!  Try it!  It is smoky & yummy!

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Easy Stove-Top (or not) Smoked Mozzarella Macaroni & Cheese

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb (or about three cups) of uncooked pasta (shape of your choice.  I used egg noodles left over from my delicious Chicken Noodle Soup recipe of the other day)

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

2 cups grated cheese (I used a pizza mix of regular mozzarella & cheddar)

1 cup grated smoked mozzarella (use more smoked cheese than the other for an even smokier result)

2 TBS butter

1 tsp cornstarch

1 (or more) tsp salt & pepper to taste

1/4-1/2 cup Panko or other breadcrumbs (optional)

Paprika as garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

If baking, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta according to directions & drain & return to the stove in the same pot.  Add the butter, evaporated milk, cornstarch, cheeses & heat it up, stirring constantly, until it is melted, bubbly & thickened.  Add S&P to taste.

Here you can either opt to add a bit of paprika & shovel the deliciousness into your face pronto or you can grease a casserole pan with cooking spray, add the mac & cheese & top with a layer of panko or other breadcrumbs & bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until the breadcrumbs brown to your desired state.  Add some paprika for color (I forgot to) and commence the emotional eating.  You know what I am talking about.  This shit will fill the hole in your soul for at least a few hours & by then – the wine will have kicked in.  Cheers!

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Easy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup Made From Scratch

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I do not eat meat.  No poultry, beef, lamb, pork or otherwise.  And I recently gave up seafood because of reports about what the Fukishima disaster is doing to sea life.  Call me crazy but I do not want to eat a fish that has such terrible radiation poisoning that it is bleeding from its gills & eyes.  And there are so many other carcinogens we are exposed to every day over which we have no control – I just think avoiding seafood seems smart from now on.  Freshwater fish – I might still sample.  We shall see.

So – no – I do not eat chicken soup but I did back in the day.  And my badass boyfriend, Miles, exists on a nearly 100% animal protein diet.  He is here in LA this week & arrived with a terrible cold – so – I made him this soup.  Though I was not able to try it, it smells outrageously good & is truly easy.  The key is getting a cooked chicken.  Or roast your own but that adds a whole procedure that seems more work than it is worth.

The cooked chickens at Ralph’s were $7 and anemic-looking compared to the Flintstones-sized, ginormous $5 roasted chickens at Costco.  Having purchased the Costco chickens in the past for my dogs – I can also report that they are juicier & far less greasy than the Ralph’s jobby I picked up yesterday.  So – if you live near a Costco – get the chicken there.

Like lots of my recipes, the ratio of ingredients here is just a suggestion.  The size of your chicken will determine how much you need of the other things.  Yes, people.  Size matters.  So – if you have a glorified Cornish game hen-sized chicken – this ingredient list will work.  If you get the whopper chicken from Costco – you might want to ratchet up the veggie quantity.  Also – this is a very traditional chicken soup (because Miles is an old-school kinda guy) but you could add chopped kale or diced zucchini or whatever the fuck you want in it.  Go crazy.

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Easy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup From Scratch

INGREDIENTS

1 roasted chicken

2 onions

10 celery stalks

1 bunch parsley

5 garlic cloves

4 bay leaves

5 carrots

Several sprigs each of fresh thyme & fresh sage

1/2 lb noodles ( I used egg noodles)

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

Extra parsley as garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a large soup pot, add a glug or two of olive oil.  Quarter ONE onion & roughly chop FIVE celery stalks.  I added the base of the celery to my pot, too.  Cut the garlic cloves in half.  Saute the onion, celery & garlic for about 2 minutes.

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Meanwhile – remove all the nice meat from the chicken & set aside.  If there is liquid in the COOKED chicken packaging (NEVER add raw chicken “juice” to anything!)  – feel free to add that to the stock.  Put everything else from the chicken (skin, bones, wings & icky bits – ALL of the rest) into the stock pot with the veggies.  Add the parsley, sage & thyme whole.  Add the bay leaves.  Add enough water to cover all the ingredients in at least an inch of water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer for at least thirty minutes.  Get another large pot & put a colander over it.  Pour the stock through the colander & throw away all the bits the colander catches.  Return the fresh chicken stock to the stove. Dice the remaining onion & add it to the stock.  Add the reserved chicken pieces.  Dice the celery & add that.  Chop the carrots & add them.  Add the noodles.  Bring to a boil & simmer until the noodles are cooked & the veggies are tender.  If the soup needs more stock, just add water.  Add salt (at least 1 tsp – maybe as much as 3 or 4 – but TASTE IT after you add each quantity of salt).  Add pepper.  Serve it up with some more parsley & let the healing begin!!

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Spicy Chili Chocolate Cake & Fine Dining in Montecito, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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OK – I will apologize up front for the lame photos of the chili chocolate cake.  I hope the photos of my Montecito trip make up for it a tiny bit.

This chili chocolate cake is just stupid easy & really dense – like a flourless cake – despite the fact that it is flour-based.  I stole the recipe from Bake-aholic.com (their version & photo below)

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and just used my Fireball frosting from the Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes I made the same day I made this cake.

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My cake seemed far more dense than their appears but it was rather yummy.

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Here is their recipe for

Chili & Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you know I never plan ahead…1 T of vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup…add milk to the 1 cup mark.  let sit 5 minutes to curdle)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup hot hot water

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 13″x9″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, sugar, soda, cinnamon and cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp cayenne…you can adjust when the batter is all combined). Add in oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Stir gently. Add hot water. Pour into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Frosting:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4-6 T milk

Beat butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, add vanilla and cinnamon. Add milk and beat until you attain your desired consistency (I generally start with 4 T [1/4 cup] then add 1 T at a time).  Frost cooled cake. (This frosting is also delicious on graham crackers.)

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This weekend marked my second anniversary with the badass, Miles Miller.  I had an available dog sitter so we took the opportunity & escaped for a night to Montecito.  Montecito is the wealthy town just south of Santa Barbara.  I used to go there all the time & have a few favorite spots but I hadn’t been in over a decade – so – returning to those old favorite haunts had a distinct element of risk.  Not every restaurant can maintain its quality for twenty years.  Since I chose the destinations – all the responsibility was on my shoulders and I was a bit nervous.  But one place I was fairly certain would have maintained its allure is the Four Seasons Biltmore up there on the beach.  Unable to afford to actually stay there – I decided we could certainly afford to lunch there – so that was our first stop.

We sauntered into the hotel around noon & went to their restaurant there – Bella Vista.

“Are you joining us for brunch?”

I looked at Miles who shrugged and then answered, “I don’t see why not.”

But I could see why not.  I am not a brunch fan & I am especially not a brunch buffet fan.  Omelette bars & tables of pastries are of no interest to me – not to mention that most buffets are excessively littered with meat options.  Not only am I not a meat eater but, recently, I decided to stop eating seafood (because of the radiation they are finding in it from Fukishima – read HERE).  WTF else is there on a buffet for me?

But, we committed & I decided to make the best of it.  The bottomless champagne promised to take the edge off whatever disappointment lay ahead for me.  And look how pretty the joynt is.

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I tried to console myself with the thought that a high end buffet would, at least, have lots of options that would please my nearly purely carnivorous boyfriend.  I sipped champagne.  I looked around.  I thought, “This does not suck.”  Because it didn’t – no matter what I ended up eating.  And look at how cute Miles is!

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Then I wandered into the buffet room.  It was truly a wonderland of options.  The Biltmore does not fuck around & this buffet proved to be the finest I had ever seen.  Sure, there was bacon & sausage & homemade hash & rare lamb chops & prime rib & steak salad & chicken salad and, really, every meat option you can imagine and there was a wall lined with every variety of sweet thing on Earth.  There was the requisite omelette bar & the bagels & lox & all the other things you might expect.  Initially, I loaded a pile of mashed potatoes on my plate, still determined to go vegetarian – until I lifted the lid on the shrimp & grits.  Oh fuck.  I adore grits & radiation cancer or not – I was going to have some of that shrimpy goodness.  As I spooned a bit on my plate – I spied huge hunks of lobster in the grits, too.  It was about then that I apparently went into some kind of seafood-frenzy black-out.  Photos of my first plate reveal these selections:

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Mashed potatoes, seafood grits, CAVIAR (I could live on caviar) with all the traditional accoutrements, two oysters & a shrimp.

My return to the buffet resulted in this selection:

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That, if you cannot tell, is a small selection of sushi, a tiny piece of smoked salmon, oysters, a shrimp & a SCANDALOUS portion of caviar that, as you might observe, I tried to obscure beneath the little bowl of soy sauce & wasabi.  There are eight blini there so that gives you some idea of the greed I exhibited.  I could have just stood there at the buffet & smeared it all over my face as I scraped the entire quantity offered into my mouth with a cupped palm – whilst growling at anybody unwise enough to approach me.  But that seemed rather classless so I just took about an entire ounce of the black gold and the desired extras (egg & creme fraiche etc) and rejoined Miles at our table & grunted, “This does NOT SUCK” repeatedly as I swilled the free-flowing champagne & licked caviar from my fingers.

Sometimes I’m not safe in public.  God bless Miles for loving me.

Properly sated – we braced for the bill.  Miles guessed the cost would be high & guessed $50 each.  I feared it would be closer to $125 each.  Or more.  After all – there was BOTTOMLESS CAVIAR & the champagne was not sweet & gross and it, too, was bottomless.  I think Miles threw up in his mouth a bit when the bill turned out to be just under $200 with tip but I knew we had dodged a bullet.  And I still had caviar running down my chin like a goatee – so I was good with it all.

So – I dragged him across the street to the beach.  Here is a peek at that loveliness.

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So – we checked into the hotel – the Montecito Inn – and clicked on the fireplace.

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Ah, romance.  A bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub & a stint watching Crib’s Most Expensive Homes & it was time to get back to the eating & drinking.

A single cocktail next door at Lucky’s

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and it was time to go to one of my favorite restaurants anywhere – Pane e Vino.  The pressure was kind of off me by the time we got there because lunch had been such a success but I still sweated it out a bit until Miles declared his bolognese with spinach noodles to be delightful.  He hadn’t been as pleased with a similar dish the night before at LA’s Bottega Louie – so I really was worried.  My homemade pasta with mushrooms was insane.  Hard to photograph but not hard to shovel into my face.

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The ride back & forth, by the way, was provided by the AWESOME Uber service.  Uber is a car service that you summon with an app on your phone.  You simply provide a credit card to them when you sign up & all the fees & tips etc are handled that way.  No cash.  And the drivers (for UberX – the least expensive of their three car options) drive their own car.  Cheaper & easier than a taxi service & you can request a fare estimate before pulling the trigger & calling for an Uber pick up.  I recommend it VERY highly.  And here is a little discount for your first ride.

Use my Uber promo code, 4hmyy, and get $10 off your first Uber ride.

Before we went to bed, I received this pathetic image of my two sons – huddled in despair because of my absence.  They can really work up a pity party when they are motivated.  Silly kids.

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The next day before we headed home to reunited with the doggies – we stopped at Cava in Montecito.  It was a gorgeous day & we sat outside on the patio.  We nibbled on chips & salsa.

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Miles ordered a beer & fajitas.

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I got a huge portion of guacamole, a Bloody Mary & (back on the seafood wagon) – the chile relleno.

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All were delicious though the chile relleno, as you can see, was served as almost a soup.  I have never seen it served that way before but it was very tasty.

And that, as they say, was that.

Try both the Chili Chocolate cake & try Montecito when you can.  And save up for that GD brunch buffet.  You could not possibly regret it!

If Los Angeles is your destination – the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills has a great dining spot, too.  Culina!  Check out my CRAZY experience there – HERE.

Grown-up Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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LARGE BathingandthesinglegirlOrangeV52

My debut novel is out!  Check it out!  I think it is HILARIOUS!  I hope you will, too!

www.BathingBook.com

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These guys are as easy as can be.  You could make them with your favorite “from scratch” cupcake recipe or just buy a box of cake mix.  Same with the frosting.  I had to make a dinner for 12 the other day and, as it was a dual birthday celebration – desserts were a must.  I just didn’t have time to get all fancified with these.  Or even to photograph them properly – so – pardon the bare bones effort here.

If you haven’t tried Fireball whiskey but you like a cocktail & you like to pretend you aren’t really having one – this Fireball is for you.  I cannot stomach any brown liquors or whiskey, in general, but this stuff is candy in a bottle & I promise you will NOT taste whiskey.  At all.  My badass boyfriend Miles is in town for our anniversary (today!) and he has a weakness for this Fireball elixir and I thought I’d experiment with it in cupcakes.  It worked & they were colorful & tasty & reminiscent of those fireball jawbreakers.  Try them!

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Grown-up Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

1 box of white cake mix (and the ingredients – eggs & oil – that the box outlines)

Fireball whiskey

Sprinkles of your choice

Red food coloring

Cupcake liners

For the icing

White frosting

DIRECTIONS

See?  EASY!

Make the cake mix as directed but replace the water required with Fireball whiskey & then add a tablespoon or two of red food coloring.

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Bake as directed.  Cool the cupcakes.

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Add a TBS or two (or more if you like) of Fireball whiskey to the frosting.

Frost & decorate as you like.  Voila!

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